By Randi Pierce
In an effort to provide for public health and safety, the Town of Pagosa Springs issued a declaration of local emergency Monday afternoon.
“This follows similar declarations by the President, the Governor of Colorado, San Juan Basin Public Health (which covers La Plata and Archuleta Counties) and Archuleta County. La Plata County and the City of Durango have also issued declarations. This document allows for the Town to receive outside state and federal resources if needed, during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Mayor has authority to issue these per the Town Charter, which expire in 7 days unless extended by the Town Council. This will be on the agenda for Thursday’s meeting. Mayor Volger would like us to proceed as a Town with ‘reasonable and prudent’ decision-making, and he feels that this is in line with that path,” a Monday email from Town Manager Andrea Phillips to the Pagosa Springs Town Council states.
The town council is slated to meet at 5 p.m. this evening, Thursday, for its regular meeting. The town is encouraging the public to view and or participate in the meeting remotely. Join the Zoom meeting by computer
meeting ID: 510 229 935. Or, dial
(669) 900-683, meeting ID: 510 229 935. Please remember to mute your computer or phone until it is time to speak.
“It should be noted that although there are no confirmed cases as of today in our county, the goal is to limit community spread and ‘flatten the (epidemiological) curve’ of the coronavirus due to limited local health resources,” Phillips’ Monday email states.
In addition to the consideration of extending the declaration, the council will also consider a resolution that, if approved, will allow for remote participation in meetings in times of emergency.
The resolution would apply to the town council, Pagosa Springs Planning Commission and Historic Preservation Board, as well as other advisory committees, and would allow for meeting attendance via phone or other electronic means according to specific terms and conditions.
Those terms and conditions, as listed in an attachment of the draft document, are as follows:
“In any disaster emergency resulting from a contagious disease, or in the event the Governor of Colorado has issued a statewide declaration of emergency because of contagious disease, the following shall apply:
“1) Members of the Town Council may participate remotely in a council meeting or study session through telephonic or other remote means, provided that such means allow for the public to hear the council member and for the council member to hear both members of the public recognized to speak and other members of the council.
“2) Members of boards or commissions may participate remotely at meetings through telephonic or other remote means provided that such means allow for the public to hear the board or commission member and for the board or commission member to hear both members of the public recognized to speak and other members of the board or commission.
“3) The Town Council, Town Manager, boards and commissions may exclude or limit the public from personal attendance at meetings provided that the meeting is available to the public either by telephone, over the internet or on television and the council, board or commission provides a means for public participation.
“4) The Town Manager may cancel any Town Council, Town committee, board or commission meeting and any meeting by another such body prior to commencement of such meeting to preserve the public health, safety and welfare.
“5) Notwithstanding any provisions to the contrary or any procedural rules, the Town Council, Town manager, boards and commissions may continue consideration of any item on the published agenda of a Town Council, Town committee, board or commission meeting. Continued agenda items that are concept plans or quasi-judicial in nature shall be rescheduled to a time when the Town Council or Town Manager finds that the Town body and all interested parties will have adequate opportunity to participate in the consideration of the item. Any call-up consideration that would require an affirmative action of a Town body and that was continued under the provisions of this section shall be tolled from the date of continuance to the date when the Town body considers the call-up.
“6) The Town Manager may waive, alter, reschedule any time requirement, deadline, procedure, scheduled hearing, or other event required for a contract, license or permit from the Town.”
If approved, the instructions on how to participate would be available at the top of each meeting’s agenda. Agendas are available at https://pagosasprings.civicweb.net/Portal/MeetingTypeList.aspx.
In addition to considerations for remote meeting participation, the town has taken other steps in light of the COVID-19 risk, with those steps slated to be re-evaluated in a few weeks.
Those measures include, as Phillips outlined:
• Public access has been temporarily suspended for groups and activities at town facilities, including the Ross Aragon Community Center.
• The Pagosa Springs Senior Center is closed to congregate meals, games and classes. Drive-up meals and Meals on Wheels delivery will continue.
• Town staff is reducing in-person meetings and encouraging business to be conducted via methods such as conference calls, video conferencing and email.
• Town facilities are being sanitized as much as possible, including surfaces, doorknobs, railings and more, and encouraging good hygiene practices (such as staying home when sick, practicing social distancing and hand washing).
• Offering links to sources such as San Juan Basin Public Health and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on its website, www.pagosasprings.co.gov.
• Having Phillips and Police Chief Bill Rockensock be a part of the consortium of government and health entities having conference calls several times a week to monitor the situation and discuss response and preparedness.
The town is also continuing to offer online options for licensing permits and payments:
• Payments by check can be mailed or placed in the night drop box.
• Payments by credit card can be made online at Xpress Bill Pay or by calling 264-4151, ext. 238.
• Payments for court, traffic, or parking can be made by calling 264-4151, ext. 248 or 250.
• Business licensing, contracting licensing, and permits can be accomplished online through the CitizenServe portal.